Gaza: "The Wounded Are Stuck At Home"

An interview from France's Liberation Newspaper

Virginie Mathieu, MSF head of mission in Gaza and the Palestinian Territories, talks to France's Liberation newspaper about the situation in Gaza during this latest round of conflict. 

The following is taken from an interview with Virginie Mathieu, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) head of mission for activities in Gaza and the Palestinian Territories, conducted by Cordelia Bonal of France's Liberation newspaper, on November 21. The original can be found here.

What kinds of needs are there on the ground?

Since the start of Operation “Pillar of Defence," there have been 140 deaths and a thousand wounded, about one third of them children. The doctors are overwhelmed. Some [people] who were gravely injured have been evacuated to Egypt through the open Rafah border crossing, but also [through] the Israeli border, which is worth noting. Others have been treated in the country. Despite the situation, the medical services in Gaza are good, with surgeons who are well practiced in field surgery. But we’re concerned that people who are injured or who need regular care are stuck at home or elsewhere, scared to go out because of the incessant bombings. The leaflets dropped Tuesday by the Israeli army calling for people to evacuate caused major panic. Lots of people left to find refuge elsewhere. The people there, who have already suffered through years of conflict, are under enormous stress.

What are the most urgent medical needs?

Lack of medicines is a chronic problem in Gaza. In Gaza they don’t have 40 percent of the medicines considered essential by the WHO [or] 65 percent of “consumables” (IV drips, needless…). We have been able to bring materials (gloves and bandages) and medicines (anaesthetics and disinfectants) in to the Gaza central pharmacy via Israel since the day after the first bombings. The pharmacy then sends that stock to 13 public hospitals according to their needs. There’s also a deficit in follow-up in Gaza. We’re able to provide support in the area of intensive and postoperative care.

Are you able to move around?

Very little. For the moment, we can only move around inside Gaza city. We can’t go to the north or the south of the territory. There has been shelling over our Gaza city clinic. A portion of our materials has been destroyed; a number of ambulances have been damaged, as have been the UN buildings and a hospital. This evening one of the two main roads in the Gaza strip was cut off. We can’t get to the inflatable hospital in Khan Younis that we’ve been using since 2011 – it’s in the south, maybe fifteen kilometers away. This hospital is nonetheless ready to be used as a triage area and an operating theater for minor surgery.

Do you think you’ll have to leave Gaza if the situation gets worse?

We are doing all we can to ensure the security of our staff. We’ll stay as long as we are able to, like the UN and the ICRC who are also present in the Gaza strip. As for the Palestinian members of our team, however, they couldn’t leave anyway.